Cadillac’s new ATS small sedan (from $35,225) carries within it the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) media interface, which puts many of the basic controls of the car on an LCD touchscreen (with touch-controlled buttons) on the head-end unit. This arrangement has frustrated some longtime Cadillac owners who are accustomed to controlling things such as the radio and the air conditioning using knobs and other physical controls. The CUE interface strives to work like an iPad, but comes up short in real driving conditions.
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The ATS doesn’t just look sporty and sleek on the outside—it’s also pretty high-tech on the inside. The Cadillac User Experience consists of an all-touch head unit, a small instrument-cluster display, and a lower-tech heads-up display.
The majority of the Cadillac User Experience appears on the all-touch head unit, which features an 8-inch multitouch touchscreen and touch-sensitive buttons. Both the touchscreen and the buttons offer haptic feedback, which means you’ll feel a small vibration when you press anything. The feature is designed to help you navigate the system when your eyes are otherwise occupied (read: on the road). The head unit is fairly attractive at first glance—it’s all glossy screen and shiny black plastic—but it gets visibly covered in fingerprints after just a few swipes and taps.
The home screen consists of an app grid, though most of the offerings are basic in-vehicle “apps” such as navigation, weather, and radio. The included Pandora app lets you stream ad-free Pandora Internet radio (even if you’re using the free version of Pandora) over your smartphone’s mobile data connection. The ATS also comes with GPS-based navigation and Sirius XM weather data (which means you’ll need to pay for a Sirius XM subscription if you want to keep using the weather app). One neat feature is that the navigation app can pull data from the weather app to give you the weather conditions along a particular route.
‘All-touch’ doesn't cut it
An all-touch infotainment system may seem cool and forward-thinking, but does it really work? After all, using a touchscreen when your eyes are on the road is pretty difficult. And the answer to that question is … no, it doesn’t really work. Don’t get me wrong, Cadillac is really trying to make the all-touch system work, with enhancements such as the haptic feedback and a proximity sensor that detects when your hand is near and brings up additional buttons on the touchscreen. But the ATS could certainly benefit from at least a couple of physical knobs and dials.
The biggest issue we saw was the volume slider—a thin, matte-silver plastic strip that you slide your finger along to change the volume. While it is cool-looking, and terribly innovative, it isn’t very useful. Luckily, you can change the volume on the steering wheel, using a physical switch.
The all-touch head unit isn’t the only tech inside the car, however. You’ll also find a customizable screen built into the instrument cluster, as well as a somewhat basic heads-up display that projects onto the windshield. The instrument-cluster screen has three modules, all of which you can customize (using buttons on the steering wheel) to show different stats. For example, you can choose to see the speed, trip statistics, the tire pressure, or what song is playing on Pandora. This is a nice touch, because it helps keep the driver looking straight ahead for as long as possible.
The heads-up display is a little lower-tech than the instrument-cluster screen and the head-unit screen. You control the heads-up display using several switches next to the steering wheel, and it can present basic vehicle stats such as speed. This car offers so many places to check the speed that you have no excuse for getting a speeding ticket.
The 2013 Cadillac ATS is a sweet-looking sedan, and it’s packed with all sorts of tech. Unfortunately, the all-touch head unit is more beauty than brawn—the touchscreen is a little laggy, the lack of knobs and pressable buttons is disconcerting, and the entire thing is a fingerprint magnet.
This story, "Most controversial: Cadillac ATS" was originally published by TechHive.